FAO NELWD Bulletin No.4 - 18 Dec, 2013

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FAO NELWD Bulletin No.4, Land and Water Days in Near East & North Africa, 15-18 December 2013, Amman, Jordan

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FAO NELWD Bulletin No.4 - 18 Dec, 2013

  1. 1. Daily Bulletin, 18 Dec Sustaining resilience: accessibility, accountability and affordability of food supplies in the NENA region What are the factors contributing to create food insecurity? How to identify who are the most vulnerable? These were the questions addressed by participants in the technical session 11 ‘Ensuring Food Security in Land and Water Scarce Settings’. Challenges related to land and water scarcity in the NENA region are set in a broader risk landscape characterized- among others- by uneven distribution of wealth, marginalization and strong demographic drivers. Resource scarcity is also deeply interconnected with food insecurity, poverty and political instability. Within this context, gigantic vulnerabilities exist in the field of food security. No country in the region has a full control of its own food resources. Availability, access and stability of food supplies are affected by different factors, such as poverty, conflicts, social unrest, drought, displacement, poor governance and price fluctuations. Experts agree that one of the main challenge faced by policy makers is how to identify who are the most vulnerable. The Arab Organization for Development gave an overview on the link between food security and poverty trends in NENA countries. For instance, studies have demonstrated that while poverty is lower in properly irrigated areas, the vast majority of poverty pockets are rather located in smallholders and landless communities, which are characterized by marginal agricultural business, higher level of schools drop outs and illiterates. Poverty tends also to be higher in households headed by women. Weakness in the access to food supplies are aggravated by the degradation of natural resources and frequent climate fluctuation. Over the past decades Arab countries have adopted different mechanisms to reduce poverty. Several multisectoral studies and targeted investments in rural areas have led to the construction of infrastructures, drilling of water wells and dams. Good practices from Egypt on women empowerment were presented. Women in rural areas have been encouraged to engage in the agricultural sector to improve family income through dedicated training on small scale agro-processing and modern agricultural technologies. Participants recommended to sustain community resilience through food security improvement and poverty reduction in the NENA region. In particular, it was suggested to set up inclusive mechanisms of governance which can link both bottom-up and top-down approaches. To ensure sustainability and improve livelihood, governments need to better balance social and economic aspects in policy planning processes, putting the most vulnerable at the core of food security strategies. Holistic approaches in decentralization are also positively welcomed. To scale up interventions, participants suggested to invest on awareness campaign which can make modern agricultural technologies more socially acceptable, investing on women as the real engine and model for change. Irrigated agriculture: one size fits all (RAFI) In today's technical session on Irrigated Agriculture, there were lively discussions on the relationship between water management and irrigated technology.
  2. 2. All the participants agreed that with agricultural water being the largest sector of fresh water use, there needs to be a serious effort in the Near East and North Africa region to consolidate knowledge on the best practices with regards to irrigation. During the panel session, experts mentioned the need to adapt the most appropriate technology for each context. Irrigated agriculture is not a one-size-fits-all situation, and the context of each situation depends on making the right choice regarding which irrigation method to implement. Thus, very much in line with the rest of the Land and Water Days conference, irrigation technology is another facet of the development of a more sustainable agriculture in the region. MENA countries face gradual losses of vegetation cover Vast areas of agricultural lands in the Arab region are facing severe Land degradation and Drought hazard, amid the lack of collective action to rescue agricultural lands. Agriculture experts meeting on the last day of the FAO Water and Land Days concluded that total agriculture productivity in MENA countries is decreasing by 0.88% on a yearly basis. Estimates of these Losses reached to 1.17% of rangelands, 1.2% of forests, as well as high levels of saline waters especially in Algeria and the Mesopotamian region (SyriaIraq). This is negatively impacting rural communities that are mostly dependent on agriculture for their living and urban areas which are getting more pressured with migrants from the countryside. The main problem here is ascribed to the lack of needed regulations from the governments and collective actions from ministries and institutions in charge to combat the problem. However, small unilateral investment initiatives have taken place in the some parts of Egypt generating some revenue to smallholder farmers. These are success stories to learn from, according to some agriculture experts. Therefore, policy formation need to:    Recognize social and economic values derived from the environment towards more informed and adapted planning and decision making processes. Link social and economic outcomes to environmental outcomes Providing qualitative and quantitative methodologies to determine socio-cultural and economic benefits Towards a Regional Collaborative Strategy on sustainable agricultural water management and food security in the NENA region The NENA region built more water storages that any other region in the world. By embracing the spirt of water integrated approaches, a considerable growth in the agricultural production was registered over the last 25 year. With 25.000 irrigated areas in the region, a stunning 90% of the irrigation potential of the region has been reached. An evolution in countries policies facilitated the shift to highly value cropping and raised agricultural productivity. However, positive results achieved are challenged by many factors, such as groundwater depletion, climate change, higher temperatures and lower and less predictable rainfalls.
  3. 3. What does the NENA region need? Christopher Ward, researcher at the Exeter University, presented the first draft of the regional collaborative strategy on sustainable agricultural water management and food security. The strategy aims at empowering countries to further increase their productivity growth. By the application of evidence-based approaches, policy dialogue can benefit from the rich knowledge base and bring into government initiatives those changes needed to develop better national poverty strategies. To be more effective, Mr. Ward affirmed that farmers should be more involved in these process, as partners rather than beneficiaries. Within their efforts to boost collaborative interventions, countries can refer to this strategy in the following field of actions: - Governance and institutions; - Agricultural water management and food securities; - Subsidiary, decentralization, participation; - Acting on the supply-side drivers of scarcity; - Demand management options and incentive framework. Potential areas for regional collaboration have also been flashed to participants, including water management and food security, community organizations for water and wider natural resource management, groundwater governance, participatory irrigation modernization and benchmarking. Call for action: Partnership Pledge At the end of the Near East and North Africa Land and Water Days, participating agencies, organizations and institutions submitted a pledge to promote regional partnerships and collaboration among NENA countries. In light of the severe intensification of water scarcity and land degradation faced by the region, participants expressed their concern for the challenges faced by stakeholders in the agricultural sector, including increasing water use restrictions and further threat of land degradation. Introduced by the representative of the League of Arab States, Ms. Shahira Wahbi, this call for action acknowledges the necessity to ‘growing more with less’ by strengthening the resilience of agro-ecosystems towards a sustainable agricultural intensification. “There is no more time to waste, we can make a difference in the future only if we work together” “[We] Declare our strong interest and willingness to work together, drawing on our collective knowledge and resources, in an effective, action-oriented and result-based Regional Partnership, to support the implementation of relevant collaborative strategies, in the context of the Arab Water Security Strategy and the Arab Strategy for Sustainable Agricultural Development (2005 – 2025), assisting the Countries of the Region to cope with water scarcity, manage sustainably their land and water resources and meet their sustainable development goals.” But this is just the beginning of a new commitment….

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